Here Walt Pannell, president, Gulf Coast Division at Cadence Bank, and Derrick Jackson, a certified financial coach, reflect on the origins and impact of the bank’s partnership with Operation HOPE.
WHAT IS OPERATION HOPE?
Operation HOPE is the largest, on-the-ground financial literacy organization in the U.S., with offices in over 250 cities serving over 900 locations. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved, disrupting poverty for millions of low-and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation.
Operation HOPE has served millions of individuals and directed billions in economic activity into disenfranchised communities — turning check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living-wage consumers and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered survivors.
HOW DID THE PARTNERSHIP FORM WITH CADENCE BANK?
Cadence Bank has been working with Operation HOPE since 2017 when Cadence launched its first pilot HOPE Inside location at one of its Memphis, Tennessee, branches. Cadence has added six additional HOPE Inside locations since July 2021, including one in Gulfport, and has committed nearly $1.5 million to support Operation HOPE’s financial literacy programs.
Some Cadence Bank customers need to raise their credit score before they can qualify for a mortgage or personal loan. That’s where Operation HOPE comes in. Because the HOPE Inside team collaborates within Cadence’s branches, customers and community members may speak with a banker and a HOPE financial counselor in one location. The goal is to boost their qualifications and eligibility, giving them access to better products and pricing.
The services provided at HOPE Inside locations are tailored to the community’s needs and available at no cost. These include credit counseling, money management education, homeownership counseling and small-business coaching. Importantly, there are no specific qualifications customers need to meet to participate.
WHY IS FINANCIAL LITERACY ESSENTIAL FOR WOMEN IN PARTICULAR?
Financial literacy is crucial for women, as it empowers them to make informed decisions about their finances, fostering independence and security. According to a study conducted by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center in March 2021, nearly two-thirds of working women are behind on their retirement savings, compared to just 48 percent of men. And while about half of women are confident about their finances, only 28 percent feel empowered to act.
With a strong understanding of budgeting, investing and financial planning, women can navigate economic challenges, plan for the future and build a solid financial foundation. Additionally, financial literacy allows women to break down traditional gender barriers, promoting equality in both personal and professional spheres.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE RESULTS OF THE PARTNERSHIP THUS FAR?
By getting a better grasp on their personal finances, customers can maintain economic stability going forward. They can teach others, including friends, family and neighbors, what they’ve learned and promote a more financially empowered community.
In fact, after a six-month timeframe, the average individual who goes through the Operation HOPE program may see a net savings increase of about $1,000 and a credit score increase of up to 50 points. This is critically important when you consider that financial wellbeing is among the lowest levels observed since 2016, according to the Federal Reserve’s Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2022 survey.
Cadence’s Gulfport location has reported (January 2023 through mid- November 2023) a total of 382 clients who have been assisted. Of this number, 77 percent, or 294 women (100 percent African American) have received services from this location.